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What Does a Sports Scientist Do?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Sports scientists apply scientific principles to athletic activities. Tasks might range from creating comparative performance charts to designing exercise and nutrition programs that enhance athletic performance. These scientists may draw upon knowledge from a variety of disciplines, such as physiology, anatomy, nutrition, and psychology. Research is another primary focus of many sports scientists.

Several subdisciplines are a part of sports science. Anatomy and physiology-related tasks might include comparing different body sizes and shapes or measuring various functional capacities. As for nutrition, some athletes, such as those involved in high-speed, high-energy sports need more of certain types of nutrients, like carbohydrates. A sports scientist would catalog these individual needs and create unique and specific diets for various athletes. In contrast, a psychology-focused sports scientist might evaluate the roles that the brain and human intellect play in different athletic influences like stress management and endurance.

Exercise physiology is another major component of sports science. This discipline analyzes how physical movement impacts bodily processes. Factors such as muscle strength, breathing, and heart rate are thus important. These analyses can help build training programs for athletes, such as aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises.

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Numerous scientific journals are devoted to exercise physiology, and sports scientists may seek publication in these or similar texts. A research-focused sports scientist might primarily study and record physiological responses. One of the most famous examples is August Krogh, who received the Nobel Prize in the early 20th century for discovering the means by which blood flows through muscles. In addition, physician Austin Flint was a pioneer in the field, providing details about bodily reactions to exercise.

A sports scientist might seek specialization in one of the aforementioned subdisciplnes. Some individuals might choose to work as exercise trainers, teachers and coaches or in similar forms of employment that emphasize information distribution. Others, such as dieticians, physical therapists, or professional sports consultants, choose a more medically-based discipline. Research positions that require abundant laboratory and statistical work are also available. Some sports scientists even take an administrative focus in which they manage sports teams or sports-related facilities.

Most sports scientist positions include a minimum of a bachelor's degree in sports science or a related field. Certification is also needed for many positions. Accredited organizations such as the United States Sports Academy help fulfill these specific needs.

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